Handel is pretty much amazing, as we all know. I thought for this week I’d go with his Water Music Suites in F major, G major, and D major. I know I’m slightly biased as an oboist toward these works, but that’s ok right?
Suite in F major
I really like the opening Overture to this suite. It is so crisp in its articulation and counterpoint; every line can be heard. Handel displays his excellent use of fugue in this movement. Moving on, the following Adagio opens with a wonderfully ornamented oboe solo, which I have heard played differently on every recording I have of the suites (one of my favorite aspects of baroque: improvisation). On this recording the oboist leads gracefully into the cadences.
The next allegro has alternations of strings and oboe with horns. Occasionally the two groups combine on the same line. I really like the use of syncopation in this movement. The Andante afterwards is alternating oboes and strings in a similar way to the previous movement. Suspensions abound within the oboe section creating a silky texture. The following movement, a vivo, is as its name alludes to, full of life. Contrasting phrases by instrumentation and dynamics add to this movement’s return of the crisp texture of the overture.
The subsequent movement, an air, is calm and serene. Oboes dominate the texture again with bassoon and string accompaniment. The next movement returns to the livelier side of things with a minuet. Opening with a horn call, the oboes and strings quickly join in on the joyful melody. The low strings and bassoons take the reigns in a sweeping and smooth melody in a delicious contrast to the opening call, which returns to close the movement.
The Bouree after the minuet gives a lively and welcome tension to the mix. It alternates strings and winds (oboes and bassoons). This movement reflects the structure of the following movement, the famous hornpipe, a well known orchestral excerpt for oboe. Starting out with strings, the texture switches to winds. Then the entire piece is played with full orchestra to close it. The following allegro keeps the music moving with short rhythmic patterns in a descending melodic line.
The horn section returns in the penultimate movement, an allegro. They sweep through the orchestra, with oboes providing suspensions over the section. The final movement of the F major suite is another hornpipe with the full orchestra. Alternating horns and oboes set this movement apart from the rest, and there is definitely a feeling of closure to the movement.
Suite in G major
The G major Suite opens with a sarabande flute solo. Trills increase the sense of pulse in the movement. A solo violin line enhances the flute line on repeated sections. The subsequent rigaudon is quick in tempo and lively in nature with technical passages for strings, oboes, and flute alike. The following trio continues with vivacious feel of the previous rigaudon.
A menuet provides contrast to the technical passages of the previous movements. This movement has a somewhat mysterious side to it. The strings play through the material and then a solo recorder plays a trio with bassoon and later string accompaniment. The gigue provides a more technical backdrop for the recorder and orchestra as a whole. It still keeps the enigma about it though. The concluding trio feels final in a bouncy melody in both strings and recorder.
Suite in D major
A trumpet and horn fanfare opens this suite, a much more brass dominated work. The horns copy the trumpet line for an echo effect. This opening seems highly technical for the brass section. An alla hornpipe continues with technical virtuosity adding the oboe section to the texture. The familiar echo effect occurs in this movement as well.
A minuet stands in the middle of this suite, very similar to other Handel minuets. Alternating string and oboe with trumpet and horn provides contrast in this movment. The lentement seems to have finality about it, however, it is not the final movement of the work. A trumpet melody echoed by oboes is the main material for this movement.
The following bouree is lively and keeps the spirit of the call and answer alive. Forte trumpet lines are repeated by piano oboe. The final minuet is a repeat of the previous minuet. This may be to tie back to a past theme in order to unite the work.
I think that as a whole my favorite suite is the F major, but that may be because it is the one I am most familiar with.